ELECTIONS in Cambodia have long been a dangerous game. Over the past ten years hundreds
have been killed, and several murders in recent months have some observers worried
the infamous pre-election 'killing season' may have started. Most suspected political
killings are of members of the royalist Funcinpec party and the opposition Sam Rainsy
With an election due on July 27, the question of who will investigate future suspect
killings is as important as ever. The answer was provided in a little-noticed piece
of legislation issued late last year. The name of the body is the Central Bureau
for Security (CBS), formed December 27, 2002.
Most of its members are senior officials in the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP)
(see final paragraph). That has some observers worried the CBS will hinder, not help,
Funcinpec lawmaker Keo Remy is concerned about the fledgling bureau, and said the
CBS would have a hard time proving its neutrality.
"I don't believe it [can be] neutral because these are the high ranking political
elite of the ruling party," he said. "The CBS composition [should include]
other political parties and civil society."
The SRP's deputy secretary-general Meng Rita agreed, and said the body was set up
as a tool for intimidation.
"In our past experience they are an instrument of the CPP," he said. "We
don't think there is a need to create another state instrument. They are not going
to be objective and they are not going to be fair."
But General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior (MoI), dismissed
such claims, and said the body took the task of protecting people's security seriously.
"Whatever party wins the elections, that is not a problem," he said. "What
we do is ensure the security for the people."
Beneath the nine-member CBS is the secretariat, headed by chief of police Hok Lundy,
one of the most powerful men in the land. His deputy will be the newly-appointed
Deputy Chief of the National Police General Neth Savoeun, a Hun Sen loyalist.
The secretariat will carry out the day-to-day tasks of the bureau. Lower-level bureaus
will operate at the provincial, district and commune levels and report to the secretariat,
which will report to the CBS.
NEC spokesperson Leng Sochea explained the inner-workings of the investigating body.
Initially, he said, a complaint would be reported to the commune level CBS bureau.
"If they make a report from the commune level about a killing, the report will
go from the bottom up," he said. "Usually the ... report is not evaluated
by the lower level. They only provide the investigation ... and then they should
submit it immediately to the higher level and if needed hold a meeting [with the
NEC] to evaluate."
Precisely what role the NEC will play in the investigation of suspected political
killings is a question that troubles some observers. Kek Galabru, president of Licadho,
said the NEC should have some involvement in investigating killings. But MoI's Sopheak
said the NEC has no authority to get involved.
The NEC is putting a brave face on the arrangement. It will have investigating teams
at the commune level, and Sochea said he was confident the system would work.
"It is much better than [in] the last two elections. I think it will be fruitful
if the government has strong commitment and strong cooperation with the NEC."
But Keo Phalla, director of the NEC's legal service department, said that cooperation
was not yet forthcoming.
"We seem not to be at a mutual understanding on how to play the NEC role and
the CBS role."
And so far there had been no response to requests for weekly meetings at the lower
"We disseminate [the] directive to all provinces to have the meetings each week,
but actually we have not yet talked between the CBS and the NEC," he said. "I
would like to organize a weekly meeting between CBS and NEC to define what a political
killing is and the way we can resolve [it]."
The MoI's Khieu Sopheak said that the two bodies could work together in future to
ensure a crime-free election.
"The CBS keeps in mind that the elections must be free and fair, with no intimidation,"
he said. "Of course we are working for the people, whom the CBS represents.
We need our country to be a democracy."
ï CBS members: Sar Kheng, co-Minister of Interior (CPP); Tea Banh, co-Minister of
Defense (CPP); Hok Lundy, Chief of National Police (CPP); Ke Kim Yan, Commander RCAF
(CPP); Sao Sokha, Chief of Gendarmerie (CPP); Keat Chhon, Minister of Finance (CPP);
You Hokry, co-Minister of Interior (FUN), Prince Sisowath Sirirath, co-Minister of
Defense (FUN); Tea Chamrath, advisor to the government (FUN).